If you have been shopping for countertops you have probably received a lot of information either from local companies or from your research online. You may have noticed there is a lot of conflicting information out there. Some may be true and some not so true, here you will get “Nothing but the truth”
I will start by giving you my background. My name is Shane Barker, owner, and founder of Chico Custom Counters. I started in this industry in 1975 working with my father who owned a countertop/cabinet shop in Eureka, CA. In 1982 I started with a company called Crown Plastics in Red Bluff, CA. Crown Plastics was a very large countertop manufacturer, we would produce over 8,000 lf. of laminate countertop a day! We also manufactured cultured marble and onyx countertops. Sometime around 1985, we brought in the equipment to start producing our own line of solid surface material and I was a major contributor to setting up the equipment and starting the production process. After about 8 years and working my way to plant supervisor I decided to branch out on my own and in 1990 Chico Custom Counters was founded.
During my 32 years in business here in Chico, I have worked with Quartz, Granite, Paper Composite, Plastic laminate, and Acrylic Solid Surfaces. We have also installed Lab Grade Phenolics in lab environments and HDPE panels for bathroom partitions. Throughout my many years of experience with these products, I have gained a lot of knowledge and understanding of how these products compare to each other and the pros and cons of each. And now I would like to share my knowledge with you and I hope I can clear up some of the misleading information that is out there.
We no longer sell Quartz
Quartz is a man-made engineered stone product. It requires diamond tooling and abrasives to cut and polish this product. I started working with Quartz thinking that it would be a good addition to our product line but decided to stop offering it due to some issues I found out about the product. These issues do not mean that it is not a good choice for you but rather not a good choice for me to fabricate and install this product.
Quartz has many uses and is a very strong and hard material and comes in many colors and patterns. There are slabs as well as prefabricated countertops available and It can be a good choice for kitchens and bathroom countertops. It is heat and scratch resistant and has a very elegant look. It does not need to be sealed and has a non-porous surface. You can do undermount or top-mount sinks.
Although Quartz is heat and scratch resistant it still CAN scratch and burn. The problem is that these kinds of damages cannot be easily fixed. It is very difficult to sand the surface to remove scratches without changing the appearance of the factory finish. Quartz comes from the factory with a machined finish which is hard to replicate with hand polishers.
Quartz can be damaged with heat! If you set a pan directly on the surface and it exceeds the heat tolerance of the material it will typically leave a mark that cannot be repaired, I have personally seen the damage caused by hot pans.
Quartz will have seams that are visible if the size exceeds the size of the slab, the edges can also have seams. I have seen seems that was done very well and some that were, in my opinion, not acceptable. Once the seam is done you will have a very difficult time having the company do anything about it if you are not happy. These seams are also susceptible to harboring bacteria which is why it is not used in medical procedure areas or commercial kitchens.
Quartz is very heavy and hard, I have talked with customers that had issues with breaking dishes on the surface because of the density and hardness of the material. It also produces silica dust when cut. Crystalline silica comes in several forms, with quartz being the most common, engineered stone can have in upwards of 93% silica. Quartz dust is respirable crystalline silica, which means it can be taken in by breathing. Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to serious, sometimes fatal illnesses including silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis (in those with silicosis), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is another reason I chose to stop working with this product.
We no longer sell Granite
Granite is a quarried product which means they mine the slabs from stone quarries. It is a natural product that is cut into slabs and polished. It requires diamond tooling and abrasives to cut and polish this product. I started working with Granite thinking that it would be a good addition to our product line but decided to stop offering it due to some issues I found out about the product. These issues do not mean that it is not a good choice for you but rather not a good choice for me to fabricate and install this product.
Granite has many uses and is a very strong and hard natural material. There are slabs as well as prefabricated countertops available. There are many patterns and colors available and some “precious stone” slabs that are amazing! Granite can have the most amazing look and elegance I have ever seen and is heat and scratch-resistant. You can do top or undermount sinks.
The downside to being a very hard and dense surface is that it is very cold. People have complained about putting their arms on the surface and getting too cold. It is also not very friendly to drop or bump dishes or glassware to the surface as it will easily damage them. It typically has a very shiny finish that is not appreciated by everyone.
Believe it or not, Granite can be damaged by heat. I think it is an effect it has on the sealant, but it can leave a “Pan Shadow” if the pan is hot enough and it will not go away, I have witnessed this myself. It can also scratch but is as difficult to scratch as it is to remove them.
As with Quartz, granite contains silica. This is not as much of an issue with homeowners as with the people that work with these products. Because granite can contain up to 45- 50% silica I personally feel that I do not want to subject my employees to those hazards. I’m sure you will get different ideas from granite companies but if you do some research you will learn it is an issue to not take lightly. The following link from OSHA explains it better. Hazard Alert
In addition to the silica issues fabricators face there is another threat that can affect homeowners. This threat is from hazardous gasses that can radiate from natural stone products. This is an issue that is widely documented but also widely ignored. I encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself. You can find some information here EPA
Acrylic Solid Surface
Solid surface is a manufactured material most commonly used for seamless countertop installations. It is frequently referred to as Corian®, a product developed by DuPont™ in 1964.
It can be readily cut, routed and sanded like wood and formed into countertops, shower walls, external cladding for buildings, signage and furniture where non-porosity and infrequent maintenance are highly valued. These are just a few of the many applications.
Solid surface is made of acrylic resin, polyester resin or a combination of the two that is then combined with filler, color pigments and acrylic chips. This composition is most frequently extruded or poured into ½” thick sheets that are 30” x 144” and are the same color throughout their thickness.
In addition to being workable like hardwood, it can be heated and thermoformed into curved and molded shapes. It can also be printed on using dye-sublimation techniques that deposit the ink just below the surface so the image becomes permanent.
To make this easier I will direct you to our products page that covers everything you need to know about the usefulness of this product. Acrylic Solid Surface To add a little here, you can use undermount, top-mount, or fully integrated sinks.
As with any product, there are always things you should know and understand about any downsides you could experience. I will say that The type of dust produced by fabricating acrylic solid surfaces is considered nontoxic and is referred to as nuisance dust. Inhalation of these nontoxic particles can cause irritation to the nose, throat, and upper airways. As with cutting any product that creates airborne dust a face mask and safety glasses should always be used.
Although Acrylic Solid Surfaces can have a bad reputation for burning and scratching let me put this in perspective. Yes, Acrylic Solid surfaces will burn and scratch easier than Quartz and Granite. It is not as hard of a product and this has good and bad points about it. Obviously the bad is that it will be easier to scratch and burn, the good side is that it can easily be repaired if that does happen. It is rare that we receive complaints from our customers about these issues. I contribute that mostly due to the fact that we educate our customers before we sell them a product.
As with any of the products I am covering you should always use a cutting board to cut on and hot pads or trivets to place hot pans on. With the right care and maintenance, this product will truly last a lifetime. If you do have areas that scratch you can rest assured that it can be refinished to look new again. We can also bring the finish to a “High Gloss” but do not recommend this for a high-use area like kitchen counters.
To add a little in regards to the heat resistance, Acrylic Solid surfaces can be “Thermoformed” by heating the material to about 320° and then forming it into different shapes. This material actually holds up well to these temperatures but as with all products, once you exceed the threshold of heat resistance it has, damage can occur. You should always use a trivet or pads to place hot pans on.
Again, because this is a product we currently offer I will direct you to the products page Plastic Laminate I will say that you should only use top-mount sinks for this product.
Plastic Laminate has been around a very long time and is still a very good option to consider. It has many colors and finishes as well as many styles of edges that are available. It also has the lowest price point of the other products. With the proper care and maintenance, it can last for many years.
Although plastin Laminate is a very strong product it can scratch and burn but if you use a pad or trivets for your hot pans and cutting you will never have an issue. Plastic laminate tops are made with industrial particle board which is really the best material to use because the laminate bonds very well and it is a very dense board. The downside is that the particle board is not waterproof so extra care needs to be taken at the seams to ensure they remain dry. A little water will not be a problem but extended exposure can cause damage. Laminate will generally have more seams if the kitchen is angled but depending on the size and edge style we can sometimes make a seamless top. The largest size laminate comes in is 5’x12′ so this would be the determining size to make it one piece.
This page is under construction and to Be Continued